Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from March, 2014

Dorothy Height featured on Google's front page

Have you noticed Google's logo on their front page today (pictured above)? It's for the anniversary Dorothy Height's birth. Via Wikipedia: Dorothy Irene Height (March 24, 1912 – April 20, 2010)[1]wasan Americanadministratoreducator, and a civil rights and women's rightsactivist specifically focused on the issues of African-American women, including unemployment, illiteracy, and voter awareness.[2] She was the president of the National Council of Negro Women for forty years, and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994, and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2004......Height was admitted to Barnard College in 1929, but upon arrival, she was denied entrance because the school had an unwritten policy of admitting only two black students per year (blogger's note: see white affirmative action in practice). She pursued studies instead at New York University, earning a degree in 1932, and a master's degree in educational psychology the following year. In f…

The art of argumentation

One of my favorite writers is David Simon, one of the creators of the TV miniseries The Wire, Treme and The Corner. He also wrote the excellent non-fiction books Homicide (which I read last year) and The Corner, which I'm working my way through now (man, it's a rough ride!). 
He also maintains a blog called the Audacity of Despair, which I check in on occasionally, but not frequently enough. Normally, the comments sections of most blogs and news sites are nasty swamplands filed with noxious vapors. But I actually enjoy reading the comments area of Simon's blog (as well as that of Ta-Nehisi Coates). Simon's arguments and counterarguments are sharp, concise and always on-point. I always take notes and practice his methods in my own arguments, which as an advocate for diversity and equal opportunity in astronomy, I get plenty of practice. 
One of the things I've noticed about Simon's argumentation style is that he doesn't pretend that politeness is the only a…

The symmetry of Wes Anderson

Wes Anderson is one of my favorite directors. Bottle Cap, Rushmore, The Fantastic Mr. Fox. These are the movies I keep going back to over and over as Hollywood cranks out one green-screen CGI epic after the next. Don't get me wrong, I'm way into Spike Lee and Michael Mann, but for a leisurely evening escape from reality, few do it better than Wes Anderson.

So it was with great pleasure that I watched this video on The Dish highlighting Anderson's love of symmetry in his filmmaking:

Blinded by my privilege

I was recently talking with a female astronomer about diversity in astronomy. At one point, she said, "You don't know what it's like to be marginalized in your dept., to not have people listen to you and talk over you. To not give you the benefit of the doubt." Now, keep in mind that my conversation partner is white. I was a bit taken aback by her comment, and I blurted out, "You think I don't understand?! I am a Black man in America. At Harvard. In astronomy. There are of order 10 other Black people at my station in life. Until only recently I was rarely given the benefit of the doubt! I understand marginalization."
I could tell that she was, in turn, taken aback. I think that in her view I was just another man enjoying all of the associated privileges of being male in astronomy. To be sure, I do enjoy many membership benefits. I can look around the room in faculty meetings and see other men. Lot's of 'em. But it was obvious to me that she ove…

Let's Talk About Affirmative Action

Wanna make a room full of academics uncomfortable? Well, there are many ways to go about doing this, but among the most enjoyable and educational methods is to be the lone Black guy and say something like, "So let's talk about affirmative action!" Cue squirming and foot staring.
Well, that's basically what we at the Women in Astronomy blog were doing last week. Here's a lineup of the most recent posts:
- Joan Schmelz argues against affirmative action, with a fun plot twist! What did I think of affirmative action? Did I think it had a place in modern academia? I answered that the physics and astronomy communities have suffered for too long under the yoke of affirmative action policies. (Not the answer you were expecting from the chair of CSWA? Please don’t stop reading here! There is a point to be made.) If policies give precedence to one gender over the other or one ethnic group over the others, then all science suffers.  - I respond to arguments against brought…

Wednesday noon music break

TTNG with the oddly-named tune, Cat Fantastic. My favorite lyrics

Gather the right minds 
And Slowly through time 
All the right minds 
Ignoring patience that we lack 
Will inform the new minds 
And likely inclined all the new minds 
Will in turn replace the old 
They will change you easily 
Great ideals will be replaced

I got to see some of that ideals-replacing going on at the Astronomer's Facebook page last week...

)

Persuasive Arguments for Why Gender Parity Matters

Today's guest post is by Anne Madoff, a junior at Harvard University concentrating (majoring) in Computer Science. Anne is the founder of the Harvard Women in Computer Science, and she is currently learning about astronomy in my Astro 16: Introduction to Astronomy course. You can follow her class blog here

“On your class blogs you’ll publish posts five times a week, and at least one of those posts will be a free form post,” Professor Johnson explained. “Write about whatever interests you in astronomy, whatever you think is important.” After class, I was talking to another student—let’s call him Todd— about our assignment. I told Todd that I wanted to write at least a few posts showcasing work done by female astronomers. He seemed underwhelmed, so I reminded him that women are underrepresented in astronomy. “Sure…I guess I’ve just never really understood what the big deal about this is anyway,” Todd admitted.
In my experience, Todd’s attitude is an incredibly common one. My major a…